Using GIS-based methods and Lidar data to estimate rooftop solar technical potential in U.S. cities


We estimate the technical potential of rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) for select US cities by combining light detection and ranging (lidar) data, a validated analytical method for determining rooftop PV suitability employing geographic information systems, and modeling of PV electricity generation. We find that rooftop PV’s ability to meet estimated city electricity consumption varies widely—from meeting 16% of annual consumption (in Washington, DC) to meeting 88% (in Mission Viejo, CA). Important drivers include average rooftop suitability, household footprint/per-capita roof space, the quality of the solar resource, and the city’s estimated electricity consumption. In addition to city-wide results, we also estimate the ability of aggregations of households to offset their electricity consumption with PV. In a companion article, we will use statistical modeling to extend our results and estimate national rooftop PV technical potential. In addition, our publically available data and methods may help policy makers, utilities, researchers, and others perform customized analyses to meet their specific needs.

In Environmental Research Letters